Plant and animal domestication and dispersal is one of the most heavily debated topics in the social and biological sciences. However, a focus on the cereals has dramatically overshadowed other scholarship in the field, resulting in a shocking lack of scientific data relating to the origins of many crops. In contrast to annual crops, the domestication of long-generation perennials appears to have taken different biological trajectories and required significant cultural and ideological shifts. The FEDD project will study the origins and spread of many of the world’s most popular fruits by contrasting art historical, historical, archaeological, and linguistic data with the results from archaeobotanical, genomics modelling, and ancient proteomics analyses. My team will focus on the broad geographic region of Central Eurasia, where several of the most cultivated fruits in the world are thought to have originated. Furthermore, many other economically important fruits spread across Eurasia in antiquity along exchange routes colloquially called the Silk Road. Contrasting the results of these multidisciplinary studies will allow us to look at biological changes in the fruits and cultural changes among their cultivators during the domestication process. My unique ability to conduct this research rests in access to archaeobotanical material from collaborations with archaeological excavations (n=15) spanning the late Pleistocene to the medieval period and crossing seven different countries. The project represents an international endeavour, incorporating collaborators working in many of the least-studied areas of Eurasia, and will pull together team members interested in approaching plant domestication studies from different methodological perspectives. The FEDD project seeks to uncover the enigmatic journey of some of the most beloved items on our kitchen tables; from apples to peaches and pistachios to walnuts, we will explore the domestication and spread of arboreal crops.
Fields of science
Funding SchemeERC-STG - Starting Grant